I spent yesterday reflecting on the previous three days and tidying up a few challenge related loose ends. I was tired. The caffeine buzz from the energy gel was finally wearing off.
I knew I had to write something but I didn't know where to start. There's no doubt in my mind that I'm a bit obsessed with this hill walking lark. Is it a good obsession? I don't know.
Johnny made me smile (he always does) after arriving on Galtymore on Saturday. The weather was miserable and he said that the only way he got up was to keep telling himself "Don't look up. Don't look up...." He (jokingly) reckoned that I was going to cure a lot of people of their walking 'sickness' after the three days. From the messages and comments I've been getting since, we're all still infected.
Friday morning was overcast in Clonmel. The setting of Raheen House Hotel was as beautiful as ever though. As the bus made its way to Dungarvan the skies cleared. Those that hadn't walked the Comeragh's before were going to be in for a scenic treat.
I thought that walkers would take it handy on day one as it was a step into the unknown, in terms of fitness and endurance, for most. Foolish me, the handbrake was off on the track up to Crohaun.
At Coumfea, the vast majority of walkers headed for Carrignagower and Knockanaffrin Ridge. I had thought they all might have elected to go via the Nire Car Park and save a bit of energy. Again, I was wrong. They could 'cross' the mountain ranges any way they wanted to. Go from point A to point B with no checkpoints in between. If they could make it easier on themselves by navigating a certain route, fair play to them.
Water was running low, or gone, by the time walkers reached the Holy Year Cross. It was hot; and it's hard to balance the quantity and weight for long distance hikes. Your spirit doesn't sink though, as you've got entertaining company all the way home.
My heart sank when I saw the forecast for Saturday. We were going to get destroyed. Were Met Eireann wrong? Was YR.NO wrong? Between 10mm and 14mm of rain!!?Seriously!!? They couldn't be right. I put two coats in the bag.
I wondered who wouldn't show up after seeing the forecast. They were all there in a cold and dreary Anglesboro and we had a few more participants. I'm not mad; because all these other walkers couldn't be mad too. Again, by the time we got to Cahir the sky looked better.
It was a tough day in the Galty's but thankfully we didn't get all the rain. Maybe we had a little guardian angel looking after us. I told Johnny and Mary that if we met anyone on Galtymore, who asked where we were coming from, to tell them Dungarvan. It wouldn't have been a fib.
Now, I've heard that there was a guy playing the bagpipes at the end of the Galty Challenge one year. But, we were treated to the sounds of Thin Lizzy and AC DC, courtesy of a biker convention. The girls were there to greet us in 'the field' and had homemade scones and chocolates to give us a boost. The girls are great. All walkers arrive home safe. It is so comforting from an organisational point of view to have competent and self-sufficient walkers on the mountain.
Day three would bring us to Ballyporeen for sign-in and then the bus to Keane's Bridge where we would be set loose on the Knockmealdown's. A goat and a sheep walked casually by us, on the main street in the village, as we congregated. Hill walkers everywhere.
It was another good day, weather wise. Two showers and the sun beating down at its strongest when you were climbing to 630m from the Baylough car park. It’s always at its hottest when you have to exert yourself that little bit more.
David was on fire. Taking in three summits that were surplus to requirements. Why? Because that's how he rolls. All the navigational strategies and tactics, in reducing distance and height gain, for us lesser walking mortals would be for nought. He'd be home first anyway.
I walked alone from Knockclugga to Ballyporeen. Bridie had told me to walk on while she got something out of her rucksack. I saw Pavel and Andy off to my left and I was slightly ahead of them so I decided to put the boot down. I was thinking of Fei and I know she would have been urging me on. I was walking hard into my home town with tears in my eyes. I was glad I was on my own, but I’m never alone on the hills.
This challenge was in her memory, she was a tough cookie, determined and fiercely brave. You have to be tough, determined and brave to take on a challenge like this. If you had 95kms and 4,200m height gain clocked on your boots over three days, I don't think you'll be forgetting her name very quickly.
My mother and the other ladies from the local ICA treated us to tea/coffee, sandwiches and cakes while we relaxed and reflected on the three days. No signs of tiredness, that would come tomorrow.
I’m not going to do a thank you list of people and businesses. I’m sure to leave a few out and I don’t want to offend anyone. From the initial idea to closing the doors at the community hall in Ballyporeen there were many many supporters. Suffice to say, if I spoke or wrote to you about this, you helped me. Thank You.
The feedback to date has been fantastic and I’m very humbled by your kind and wonderful comments. There’s no doubt about it, I just love a challenging hillwalk and the people that participate and push themselves. If you know someone who works for Johnson & Johnson, tell them they're welcome for the spike in sales of Compeed.
Please leave some feedback in the comments section.
Martha Beardmore, Pat Beardmore, Pavel Bodi, Luke Bourke, Kevin Bowen, David Browne, Seamus Dorney, Steven Forde, Connor Hackett, Dorina Iacov, Kieran Johnson, Sinéad Johnson, Sinéad Keogh, David Kiely, Liam McNally, Gerry McVeigh, Paula Mollohan, Michael Moroney, Frank Nash, Josephine O’Brien, John O’Connell, Mary O’Connell, Bridie O’Connor, Josephine O’Donnell, Noreen O’Halloran, Andy Owens, Ken Quinlivan, Niall Quinlivan, Michael Rea, Owen Ryan, Gerard Sheehy.
Sign-In/Sign-Out and Stand-By
Margo Kelly, Martha Beradmore, Tom Lyons, Michael Desmond, Pat Fahey, Sinéad McGrath.